Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Sprints are Key to Masters

From Running Times

And fast-twitch fiber isn’t just about sprint speed. It’s a primary component (along with hip and knee range of motion) of stride length. Studies over the past 20 years have all come to the same conclusion: As we age, our stride frequency remains the same, but our stride length decreases – an average of 40% by the time we reach our 70s and 80s. Slowing the decrease in stride length through speed training simultaneously slows the decline in our distance race performance. Otherwise, we’d need almost twice the stride frequency to maintain our mile pace from age 40 to age 80.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maybe You're Already a Triathlete

From Ottawa Outdoors Magazine

Editors Note: I write for magazines from time to time so I thought I'd start posting the articles up here as a way of filing them publicly.

Hammering up the legendary Mill Street climb, the break away of cyclists are hoping they still have enough in the tank to make it to the finish. Off their bikes and onto the run, heavy legs slowly find the goal pace till at last they dive into the cool water and swim towards the raft in the middle of the river. There, the endurance test is complete and these 8 year olds can now enjoy laying around in the sun counting the remaining days of summer vacation.

Many of us share memories such as this. We didn't call ourselves 'Triathletes', we called ourselves 'Kids'. In 1974, some adults in California decided to do the same thing over set distances and click a stop watch at the start. That's when the term 'Tri-athlete' was born.

If you have 3 hours a week for exercise, you can become a triathlete again and relive your childhood. I use the words 'become a triathlete' because, apparently, it holds some kind of cachet in our community or culture. At pre-race talks, tongue firmly in cheek, I always recommend that when the athlete marks their body with their race number in magic marker (part of the strange culture that is triathlon) they put it on dark and thick so that it's still visible at work the next week. When they then tell inquisitive co-workers that they were in a triathlon, their office cred skyrockets because the only association their colleagues have with triathlon is the Hawaii Ironman; they don't know about the shorter stuff. There are triathlons that feature distances as short as a 100m swim, 10km bike and 2.5km walk/run. For some, this is their Ironman, and that is the beauty of the sport. Triathlon offers a suitable challenge for a very wide range of individuals.

Finding the right race distance for you is a simple process. How much time each week do you have available for exercise while maintaining a balanced lifestyle with family, friends, work and other priorities? If you can fit in 360 minutes of exercise a week, a Super Sprint or even sprint triathlon is within your reach, depending on your starting fitness. If you have 10 hours plus available each week, an Ironman is not out of the question. Personally, I have 5 to 6 hours a week for exercise. I have done many Olympic distance triathlons but now find that the shorter Sprint distance is perfect for my balanced lifestyle with a young family, work and community involvement. Life was very different for me back in 1997 though, and my lifestyle at that time supported my Ironman year.

Everyone can enjoy triathlon as part of their balanced lifestyle. To paraphrase a friend: Get in the best shape of your life, but keep your life in good shape at the same time. We did it when we were kids so let's get out and play again this summer.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Finding the Sweet Spot

From Competitor

So, rather than arbitrarily adhering to some fixed number, Lydiard tweaked the prescriptions for his runners based on their recovery abilities. All good coaches do this with their athletes. Rather than adhering to an arbitrary number of miles (from a book or a fellow coach or an excessively detailed training forecast), the intelligent coach takes into account the recovery profile of the athlete when determining how many miles to run.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Abstract Look at Anaerobic Threshold

From PubMed

During exercise, the oxygen consumption above which aerobic energy production is supplemented by anaerobic mechanisms, causing a sustained increase in lactate and metabolic acidosis, is termed the anaerobic threshold (AT). The oxygen consumption at the AT depends on factors that affect oxygen delivery to the tissues. It is increased when oxygen flow is enhanced and decreased when oxygen flow is diminished. Its value is quite low in patients with heart disease. The AT is an important functional demarcation since the physiological responses to exercise are different above the AT compared to below the AT. Above the AT, in addition to the development of metabolic acidosis, exercise endurance is reduced, VO2 kinetics are slowed so that a steady state is delayed, and VE increases disproportionately to the metabolic requirement and a progressive tachypnea develops.